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Reader Writer Runner (Victoria, BC)
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Crazy About Cakes: More than 150 Delectable Recipes for Every Occasion
Crazy About Cakes: More than 150 Delectable Recipes for Every Occasion
by Krystina Castella
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.85
34 used & new from CDN$ 4.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 11 2014
3.5 stars...

I picked this book up at the library on a whim and had no great expectations for inspiration when I opened its cover. But, largely, "Crazy About Cakes" proved a pleasant surprise; it features cake recipes ranging from the classic to the unusual and provides interesting and charming decorating ideas.

Castella begins with a thorough introduction about equipment, decoration, ingredients, techniques and serving before launching into her recipes. Certainly, she leaves no one out as she includes cakes for adults, children and even pets! She begins with everyday cakes (pound cake, white cake, devil's food cake) and gradually presents more complex projects like rainbow layer cake, a variety of wedding cakes and even a 4-tiered Quinceanera cake! She further diverges from the beaten track with her vegetable cakes: mac and cheese cupcakes and bbq pound cake to name a couple.

The book would definitely benefit from more photographs, especially from illustrations or diagrams enhancing her decorating instructions. Castella writes about how to make leaves with a pastry bag, for example, but neither a picture of the finished product nor one of the described technique accompanies these instructions. Beginner decorators may thus find themselves at a loss in this department.

Overall, a fun and unique book for the relatively experienced home baker.

Absolut Book.: The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story
Absolut Book.: The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story
by Richard W. Lewis
Edition: Paperback
6 used & new from CDN$ 11.41

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 7 2014
Any fan of the legendary Absolut Vodka ad campaign will delight in a tour through "Absolut Book." Authors weave the company's advertising history into a giant collection of ads featured in magazines over the years. Short blurbs also follow most of the ads, telling their creation stories and humourous anecdotes about their publication.

Authors do well to keep the text minimal so as not to interfere with the brilliance of the ads themselves. They also logically divide chapters by ad series (European Cities, Artists etc.) and include an index to facilitate ad location.

A great conversation starter to top any coffee table!

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
by Allie Brosh
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
42 used & new from CDN$ 3.76

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 7 2014
Admittedly, I have never understood the appeal of graphic novels; I find them tedious and difficult to absorb. However, after reading some very positive early reviews of "Hyperbole and a Half" and feeling interested in its subject matter, I figured I'd give it a peruse.

Allie Brosh's blog earned her a 2011 Bloggies Award and turned her into an internet celebrity. Of course, web writing often fails to morph into a successful print form and Brosh had the formidable task of turning years' worth of posts into a cohesive book. Impressively, she succeeds in creating a quirky, humourous memoir in the form of illustrated essays. Though choppy in places, Brosh's wit and the poignancy of her themes override any structural downfalls. In a self-deprecating and often dramatic tone, she tells personal stories that extend to the human condition: ones concerning fear, depression, love and hope. Her caricatures have an endearing quality that showcase her subject's vulnerability and juvenile innocence.

Apparently, half of the material for this book was previously unpublished so her die-hard blog followers can look forward to both new material and the return of old favourites like “Simple Dog,” “The God of Cake” and “Adventures in Depression.”

The Secret Language of Birthdays (reissue)
The Secret Language of Birthdays (reissue)
by Gary Goldschneider
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.60
29 used & new from CDN$ 14.45

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 6 2014
Bona fide science or generalized nonsense? Certainly, much controversy surrounds astrology and its claims to accurately determine the characteristics of a person born on a certain day of the year. But Gary Goldschneider's hefty, 800+ page reference book will give even the most ardent non-believers pause for thought.

"The Secret Language of Birthdays" delves into astrological detail extending far beyond the usual look at sun signs. The book includes a myriad of information including birthstones, colours, plants, trees and musical keys that bear relevance to each zodiac sign. Goldschneider divides each zodiac month into five separate periods and attaches an image to each period in the form of a single word or a two-three word phrase at most. He then divides the entire zodiac year into 48 periods revisits each subdivision of the relevant zodiac sign in greater detail. Finally and most entertainingly, he gives 366 descriptions, one for each day of the year, of the personology of a person born on that day.

Goldschneider impressively combines numerology, tarot and the influence of the minor planets in his readings. He gives each day a fascinating, one-line heading which captures the persona portrayed in the reading ("The Day of Language", for example). He describes the strengths and weaknesses of each persona and even includes a mantra for each to follow. Any person reading his or her relevant entry might find it uncannily accurate...or not. Regardless, the book dispenses valuable advice on areas of personal development and growth. A fantastic resource for both the mildly interested and the astrological junkie.

Lonely Planet The Travel Book 1st Ed.: 1st Edition
Lonely Planet The Travel Book 1st Ed.: 1st Edition
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.78

5.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 3 2014
Certainly, this oversized coffee table book would not make an efficient travel companion - too heavy to cart around and too cursory to provide a comprehensive reference for global travel. "The Travel Book" does, however, provide a staggering visual feast.

The breathtaking images in this awe-inspiring book truly showcase the world's diversity; they cover each of the 230 countries existing today. The accompanying text for each country borders on minimal but the writers have creatively used standard sections: "Best Time to Visit" (time of year and, in some cases, when in history was the best time to be present), "Essential Experiences" (the top five to eight things to do in that country), "Getting Under the Skin" (what to read, listen, watch, eat and drink), "In a Word" (the one word or expression in the country's native tongue that epitomizes its spirit), "Trademarks" (what immediately comes to mind when thinking about the country) and "Surprises" (interesting trivia and arguable observations).

Those with the most intense wanderlust will love pouring through the book, getting a sense of each country's identity.

The Thankful Book
The Thankful Book
by Todd Parr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 10.37
49 used & new from CDN$ 1.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., Feb. 3 2014
This review is from: The Thankful Book (Hardcover)
In yet another hit from Todd Parr, "The Thankful Book" focuses his playful art and simple sentences on gratitude for the pleasures of a child's everyday life. Each bold, colourful page asserts a reason to be thankful; a confident, yellow-faced child with wild purple hair claims, "I am thankful for my hair because it makes me unique." An elephant exclaims, "I am thankful for my ears because they let me hear words like 'I love you.'"

As usual, Parr includes a hearty dose of silliness: “I am thankful for underwear because I like to wear it on my head.” But, in seriousness, he inspires optimistic gratitude in children, reminding them to give thanks for something every day.

Lonely Planet Cities Book 1st Ed.: 1st Edition
Lonely Planet Cities Book 1st Ed.: 1st Edition
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.80
28 used & new from CDN$ 18.80

5.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 2 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Any aspiring globetrotter need look no further than Lonely Planet's "The Cities Book" for the ultimate coffee table fixture. To follow "The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World," editor Roz Hopkins has released a subjective ranking of the two hundred cities deemed traveler favourites by Lonely Planet's readers and editors. Admittedly less definitive than "The Travel Book," "The Cities Book" provides just as much entertainment with five pounds of glorious photographs and thumbnail sketches.

Hopkins devotes a two-page spread to each city that includes four defining photos and categorical information: Vital Statistics (size, location, elevation, population, nickname), Anatomy (geographic layout), People (ethnic breakdown), Typical Native (personality, values), Defining Experience, Strengths, Weaknesses, Gold Star, Cityspeak (common conversation topics among natives), Starring Role (books or film in which city is featured), Import, Export, Sensory Recommendations (see, eat, drink, do, watch, buy) and Urban Myth.

This list of the top 200 cities will certainly spawn arguments over which ones made the cut, which did not and where each ranks. The selections for the first third of the list seem definitive (Paris, NYC, Sydney, London, Rome, Bangkok, Berlin, Montreal, Amsterdam etc) while the remainder reads as a hodgepodge of established cities and obscure choices (eg. Christiansted, US Virgin Islands and Beira, Mozambique). Of course, debating the choices adds to the experience of sharing the book with family and friends.

The book also includes an interesting series of introductory essays on the past, present and future of urbanization. Typical of Lonely Planet, the superb photographic quality and off-beat information allows readers to get a true flavor of each city. "The Cities Book" certainly achieves its goal: to showcase the incredible diversity of the world through individual urban oases.

The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese
The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese
by Brian J. O'Connor
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.64

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 1 2014
In 2005, personal finance columnist Brian O'Connor accepted a job as a newspaper writer in Detroit. His move from Florida left his family financially tighter than anticipated and he became more cognizant of the costs involved in child-rearing, insurance and groceries. As a result, he set a challenge for himself: break down his costs into 10 categories and cut $100 from each per month. "The $1000 Challenge" chronicles this experiment and ultimately provides a useful, nuts-and-bolts guide to trimming expenses.

Throughout the book, O’Connor uses humour to great effect. Some of his jokes do miss the mark but his overall lighthearted tone will resound with readers wanting a reduction of the stress around financial changes. The author employs the right mix of detailed money discussion and frank acknowledgement, both through explanations of how families may vary and through his own struggles to achieve his monthly goal. Additionally, the categories will mesh with most households: transportation, housing, medical and insurance costs, personal spending and entertainment, and a catchall miscellaneous category. O’Connor breaks down each category into a general discussion, followed by approaches to saving, organized from easiest to hardest to implement.

A worthwhile read for anyone wanting easygoing reassurance that changes are possible even if every month can't be a challenge-busting one.

Blood: The Stuff of Life
Blood: The Stuff of Life
by Lawrence Hill
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.37
15 used & new from CDN$ 2.10

3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 1 2014
It courses through the body of every human. It defines gender, ethnicity and family identity. In clichés, you can sweat it but you can't get it from a stone. Blood certainly offers fascinating possibilities for a book but, unfortunately, Lawrence Hill's "Blood: The Stuff of Life" becomes overwhelmed by these possibilities.

Attempting to demonstrate the prevalence of his subject, Hill only achieves a superficial and repetitive examination of it. His obviously copious research too often reads like a top ten list of blood-related facts that lack both analysis and substance. He certainly displays his passion about the double standards that bestow respectability on "blood sports" (hockey, boxing) and he spotlights important topics such as the misuse of blood in justifying racial discrimination. However, he constantly turns his moral conclusions into philosophical meditations, weakening his points.

The book's strength lies in its autobiographical threads, which bring it to a more human scale. The author humbly recounts his own struggle with diabetes and piercingly admits to growing up in the shadow of a famous sibling and father. But, though his perfunctory approach plays well orally on radio, it falters when used in an intellectual argument.

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore
by Linda Leavell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.63
34 used & new from CDN$ 4.94

5.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., Feb. 1 2014
As a self-professed Marianne Moore geek (I wrote my Master's thesis on her poetry), I excitedly and impatiently awaited the release of Linda Leavell's new book for months. And, happily, it did not disappoint. Indeed, Leavell's revealing, respectful biography paints an absorbing picture of of a poet whose work H.D. once likened to “light flashed from a very fine steel blade”.

From a cache of 35,000 letters, Leavell uncovers the Moore family's unorthodox dynamic: Marianne never knew her father as he left after a breakdown manifesting itself in religious mania. Marianne and her older brother, Warner, were raised by their mother, Mary, and her lesbian partner, who both encouraged Marianne to attend the progressive women’s college Bryn Mawr. When Marianne returned home, she never left again, spending 37 years living with her mother.

From puberty onwards, Marianne's family referred to her as “he”. The family also shared their own secret language, naming each other after characters in "The Wind in the Willows." Mary opposed of her children finding partners, perhaps because of her own wretched experience of marriage. She disallowed Marianne from full-time work, believing her too frail. In their Greenwich Village apartment, Mary cooked in the bathroom and the family ate meals sitting on the bathtub. Nevertheless, Marianne always saw her home as the ideal cradle for her creativity. When her mother died, Marianne was nearly 60 yet admitted that she "did not feel grown up enough to look after herself."

While editing America’s leading cultural magazine, "The Dial," in the Twenties, she championed Gertrude Stein and Wallace Stevens. She famously took on Elizabeth Bishop as her protégé and both T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound professed their admiration for her. In her sixties (wearing a black cape and tricorne hat), she was trumpeted as America’s greatest living poet and was photographed by Cecil Beaton for "Vogue." She appeared in commercials and on "The Tonight Show." At 80, she threw the first pitch at Yankee stadium.

"Holding On Upside Down" amalgamates a wealth of material with great tact and conviction. Leavell gently paints the depth of love and understanding between Marianne and her mother and argues that, though Mary might not have done her motherly duty of helping her daughter make the leap into adulthood, her devoted ministrations enabled Marianne to see the world through words. She insightfully labels Moore's poetry as an act of survival. Ultimately, Moore thrived within her filial constraints, saw self-discipline as freedom and recognized that she was “hindered to succeed”.

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